Supreme Court rules against ‘straw’ purchases of handguns

Supreme Court rules against ‘straw’ purchases of handguns

A divided Supreme Court sided with gun control groups and the Obama administration Monday, ruling that the federal ban on “straw” purchases of guns can be enforced even if the ultimate buyer is legally allowed to own a gun.

The justices ruled 5-4 that the law applied to a Virginia man who bought a gun with the intention of transferring it to a relative in Pennsylvania who was not prohibited from owning firearms.

The ruling settles a split among appeals courts over federal gun laws intended to prevent sham buyers from obtaining guns for the sole purpose of giving them to another person. The laws were part of Congress’ effort to make sure firearms did not get into the hands of unlawful recipients.

Writing for the majority, Justice Elena Kagan said the federal government’s elaborate system of background checks and record-keeping requirements help law enforcement investigate crimes by tracing guns to their buyers. Those provisions would mean little, she said, if a would-be gun buyer could evade them by simply getting another person to buy the gun and fill out the paperwork.

Kagan’s opinion was joined by Justice Anthony Kennedy, who is often considered the court’s swing vote, as well as liberal Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor.

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